Movie Review - Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Ostensibly, this film was announced as a sequel to Man of Steel (2013), which re-told Superman's origin story. However, it's obvious that this film is less another, Superman story, as it is primarily another, Batman story. This is apparent immediately as it's Batman's voice narrating in the very opening and the majority of the film is Batman's point-of-view. As such, a lot of the things that didn't seem necessary make some sense, but given that the Christopher Nolan trilogy is much more recent, I just didn't feel the desire for yet another, Batman story. I was hoping to dig into the Superman character, but, sadly, Superman as a person is treated so superficially by this film. Yes, the idea of a "Superman" is the text and the key debate, but I get nothing of Superman as a person in this narrative.

Henry Cavill reprises his role as Clark Kent aka Superman, the alien being who possesses god-like abilities like invincibility, flight, great strength and speed. Clark works as a news reporter for the Daily Planet. The attack and the destruction depicted in the previous film, which killed and maimed tons of people in the fictional city of Metropolis, have people questioning if having Superman is a good thing or bad thing, as well as what responsibility does he bear.

The questioning and debates are had by other characters, and through clips in the news media. They're never had by Clark or Superman himself. Often, it's just Clark watching TV or others around him talk, while he just sits quietly or stands stoic. As such, Cavill is less an engaged actor in this film and he's more a Men's Health model.

One scene has Cavill walk into a room and just stand there without ever uttering a word. One could argue that all his acting is in his face or body language, but the writing and direction don't allow much of it. Cavill probably has the least amount of screen time and dialogue of all the principal cast, including Gal Gadot whose role is meant to be mysterious and more of a surprise. His time on screen is just so that audiences can soak up his impressive, muscular form and his required beefcake shot proves Cavill has the most god-like upper body of any Hollywood actor now, but that's sadly all I can say about him.

In the Man of Steel sequel, I wound up caring less about the so-called Man of Steel. I didn't even care if he lived or died. He was the least interesting character and Cavill gave the least interesting performance.

That being said, if this movie were titled "Batman: Dawn of Justice," then it would be more appropriate. As a story about an older Bruce Wayne, played by Oscar-winner Ben Affleck, and an aging Batman, it's not so bad. Bruce investigating Lex Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg, giving a performance akin to Jim Carrey in Batman Forever, with the assistance of his butler Alfred, played by Jeremy Irons, giving a performance akin to Sean Pertwee in the TV series Gotham, is a tad fun.

Oscar-nominee Amy Adams (American Hustle and The Fighter) co-stars as Lois Lane, a fellow journalist at the Daily Planet who is Superman's love interest. Her character is not much more than a pawn. She runs around investigating things, but it's superfluous when pitted against Bruce's investigating.

Oscar-nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful and Trumbo) plays Martha Kent, the mother of Clark. Her role again is mainly damsel-in-distress. It's not like the relationship depicted in the TV series Smallville where Martha and Clark had actual and intelligent conversations. Even in their one scene together, again all Cavill does is stand there stoically like a statue.

In the film, there is an actual statue erected to Superman in his honor, but who could tell the difference between that statue and Cavill's performance? On the opposite end is Eisenberg whose performance is so animated and manic that I suppose there is a weird balance.

Yet, this film ruins a perfectly, good opportunity for nuanced scenes between Eisenberg and Affleck who is doing the typical, brooding thing, continuing the lack of humor exemplified in the previous film. If the screenplay by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer were smarter, it would have built an alliance or even a direct partnership between Bruce and Lex.

The script attempts to be smarter with all the talk about hero-myths and god-figures, as well as what they mean in our lives. It's all just rhetoric though that is thrown out with reckless abandon. What Superman's presence has done to actual believers like evangelicals or even Muslim fundamentalists are not truly explored or expressed through character, any character integral to this narrative.

All that we're left with are the battles, particularly the battle that the title suggests is the reason to buy a movie ticket. That titular fight sadly isn't worth the price of admission. It's too short and not intense enough, emotionally or choreography-wise. Even Batman's new suit is lamer than Iron Man's. The whole fight is also quickly eclipsed by individual fight scenes that happen immediately after Batman and Superman go at it. Batman has to take down a room full of henchmen and Superman has to go head-to-head with a monster named Doomsday that may or not be related to the villain from the previous film.

It proves that the two work better individually than together. Thankfully, the movie rectifies this issue by virtually keeping them apart. At the same time, it sets up what will be four, spin-off films. All four will be origin stories. Dates are subject to change, according to Warner Bros., but we'll be introduced or rather re-introduced to Wonder Woman, played by the aforementioned Gal Gadot, in June 2017. We'll get the Flash, played by Ezra Miller, in March 2018. We'll see Aquaman, played by Jason Mamoa, in July 2018, and we'll have Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher, in April 2020.

Warner Bros. and DC Comics are doing the opposite of what Marvel Studios did. It's releasing the team up of super heroes first and then doing the individual stories, at least for half of the members of the so-called Justice League. This movie previews them when it probably should have left them for the future film called The Justice League Part One (2017). Despite being largely a stepping stone and narrative issues, director Zack Snyder provides the best film I've seen from him. Yet, that's not saying much.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG - 13 for intense violence and action, and some sensuality.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 31 mins.


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